The one-sentence summary

Do fewer things, only do the right things, and take less time doing them.


  • It is possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control
  • You should only have one filing system
  • You should turn your in-tray upside down and work on the principle of First In First Out (FIFO), not LIFO as many people do
  • It’s a five-stage system: collect, process, organise, review, do
  • Do it, delegate it, or defer it
  • Nothing should take more than two minutes, nor go back into your In Tray
  • The four crucial factors are context, time, energy and priority
  • There is a six-level model for reviewing your work, using an aerospace analogy: 50,000+ feet: Life; 40,000 feet: three- to five-year vision; 30,000 feet: one- to two-year goals; 20,000 feet: areas of responsibility; 10,000 feet: current projects; Runway: current actions


  • If you have problems being organised and getting things done, this book will sort you out
  • The more relaxed you are, the more effective you will be (as in karate). Applied to all parts of your life, and not necessarily the most urgent bits, this becomes Black Belt Management
  • You have to concentrate on the very next physical action required to move the situation forward. There are lots of good quotes:
  • “This constant preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy”
  • “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
  • “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
  • “I am rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp. I know what I want to do, but I don’t know where to begin.”
  • “The middle of every project looks like a disaster.”
  • “Talk does not cook rice.”
  • “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range costs of comfortable inaction.”


  • Nothing. This is an international bestseller and it works